TX - Beer bills become law
Happy hour started Friday afternoon for Texas brewers.
Gov. Rick Perry signed five bills representing the most comprehensive overhaul in two decades of how beer is packaged and sold across the state.
Thus, effective immediately, shipping breweries such as Houston’s Saint Arnold can sell a set amount of beer directly to customers, although they must consume it on site.
And brewpubs like San Antonio’s Freetail can package and sell some of their products for distribution in other retail outlets. The latter change gives Texas restaurants that make their own beer the same ability to sell off-site as many out-of-state brewpubs.
“This is a great moment for craft brewers in Texas,” Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner said. “It’s the first real reform we’ve seen in beer law, for craft brewers, since the brewpub bill.” He referred to the 1993 legislation that authorized licensed restaurants to make and sell beer for sale on site.
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild hailed the signings as a “progressive step forward in making Texas the epicenter of craft beer development and growth” and predicted the law changes will mean not just more beer on store shelves but also “more jobs for Texans, increased tourism and greater tax revenue for the state.”
The guild also reported new economic figures about the industry’s economic impact:
In 2012, Texas Craft Brewers, defined as holders of a brewers, manufacturers, or brewpub license with under 225,000 barrels of annual production, produced 186,663 barrels (a barrel being roughly equivalent to two (2) kegs of beer), up 55,514 barrels or 42% over the previous year. Commensurate with the growth in production, the economic impact of the industry reached $737 million in 2012, compared with $608 million in 2011. Texas craft beer now accounts for an estimated 0.98% of all beer consumed in Texas, but it employees 59.7% of the people who work in breweries in the state.
In Houston, the new law allowing on-site consumption at shipping breweries would have the biggest immediate potential impact. Saint Arnold, for example, plans to begin offering “special and limited edition brews” for sale during its popular weekday and Saturday tours.
Wagner stressed that the basic structure of the Saint Arnold tours would not change and that beer samples will continued to be included in the admission price. The new beers offered for sale — including cask-conditioned versions of some beers, experimental brews made in tiny batches and even some of its occasional Divine Reserve series — have not been available during tours before.
Wagner said he will continue to include beer in the price of the brewery’s daily lunch meals as well.
Wagner said the tours, which draw tens of thousands annually, and the lunches have been too successful to change the rules on people.
He said the brewery might begin hosting other events in which beer could be sold directly.
The law change allows breweries to sell up to 5,000 barrels annually on site. That would be the equivalent of about 10 percent of Saint Arnold’s current production.
Note: This post was updated shortly after 10 p.m. as new information became available.
You can read more reaction to the law change in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle. Look for the story in the Business section.